New Year’s Stressolutions: How to Unwind in 2014

What New Year’s resolutions did you set this year? Maybe you decided to lose weight, or perhaps protecting your health against smoking habit was on the agenda – but what about stress? Did you resolve to be less stressed in 2014, or is the idea of making resolutions too stressful to even contemplate? Stress doesn’t only play a part in your corporate wellness; it impacts every aspect of your wellbeing, but how do you achieve the seemingly impossible goal of reducing stress?


There are many ways of coping with stress, but some are less healthy than others. Unhealthy ways for managing stress include smoking, drinking too much, over or under eating, zoning out for hours in front of the television or computer, withdrawing from friends or family, using medication or drugs to relax, sleeping too much, procrastinating, filling up your day to avoid facing problems, and taking your stress out on others by lashing out. If that sounds all-too familiar, let’s take a look at healthy ways to manage your stress:


1. Avoid unnecessary stress. Rachel Clements, BSc Hons, M Psych, MAPS, co-founder and Director of Psychological Services and Principal Organisational Psychologist at the Centre for Corporate Health, you need to learn how to say “no.” Clements urges, ‘Know your limits and stick to them. Taking on more than you can handle is a sure-fire recipe for stress, so be realistic in your personal capacity.’ The same goes for people who stress you out. Clements advises, ‘If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time your spend with that person or end the relationship.’


2. Reduce your to-do list: ‘Look at your schedule, responsibilities and daily tasks,’ Clements instructs. ‘If you have too much on your plate, distinguish between the “musts”, the “shoulds” and the most urgent. Drop the tasks that aren’t a priority to the bottom of the list or eliminate, delegate or delay doing them.’


3. Change the situation: Clements recommends, ‘Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same…When you ask someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.’


4. Be more assertive: ‘Don’t take a backseat in your own life,’ Clements insists. ‘Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk.’


5. Improve your time management: Isn’t it often the case that you’re the most stressed right before a big deadline? ‘Poor time management can cause a lot of stress,’ Clements notes. ‘When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress your under.’


6. Step back and adapt: ‘Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective,’ Clements suggests. ‘Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favourite music, or enjoy some alone time…Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.’

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